Once cocaine hits the streets in America, it is often cut with a bunch of agents to buff it out. This gives dealers a bigger profit.
Types of Cutting Agents Added to Cocaine and Their Effects
Cocaine purity hovered around 69% in 2004. However, in recent years, purity levels have gone up. It’s much easier to get higher quality drugs.
Still, it’s almost impossible to get pure cocaine. Any coke purchased on the streets will contain other chemical agents in them. These cutting agents may cause negative reactions within the body.
Learn more about cutting agents and their effects here. We’ll also explore how pure coke affects the body.
How Coke Is Made and Delivered to America
Pure coke is made from coca leaves that can be harvested in only three countries: Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. It’s also commonly referred to as coke or blow.
Turning coca leaves into powder cocaine involves three steps.
- Coca leaves are made into coca paste
- Coca paste is rendered into a cocaine base
- Cocaine base becomes cocaine hydrochloride
The entire process involves the use of chemicals like sulfuric acid, sodium carbonate, kerosene and potassium permanganate.
According to data collected in 2014, coca farmers receive anywhere from $1.30 to $3.00 per kilogram of coca leaves. Between 450 to 600 kilograms of coca leaves are needed to make 1 kilogram of cocaine base. This means that the base cost for cocaine base is at most $1,800.
The ratio for converting cocaine base into cocaine hydrochloride is 1:1. This means that the base cost for a brick of coke is about $1,800. That’s still a far cry from the cost of a brick, or 1 kilogram, of coke in America.
To turn a profit, Colombian dealers sell one kilogram of pure cocaine for around $2,200 to $7,000 at Colombian ports. The closer to the port, the more expensive the cocaine becomes, as it is much more accessible. Those who purchase cocaine from the jungles will get much better prices.
The kilogram of coke will then need to pass through Mexico before it can hit the streets of America. In America, the price rises to $24,000 to $27,000 when purchased wholesale. At this part of the supply chain, the brick of coke is still relatively pure.
The Art of Cutting Cocaine
Once it reaches America, the coke usually goes through several hands. To make an even larger profit off of the coke, each supplier will cut it with various substances.
This basically means that the pure coke will be buffed with other chemicals and drugs. This dilutes the coke purity, but stretches profit.
For example, if a supplier purchases a brick of pure coke for $18,000, he may buff it at a 1:1 ratio with a cheaper drug. This means that he’ll end up with 2 bricks of coke. If the cutting agent only costs $5,000 in total, it means that he now has two bricks of blow for only $23,000. If he sells both bricks for $20,000, he’ll profit $22,000 from that one transaction.
This goes on and on until the coke reaches small-time, street dealers. At which point, the cocaine is usually diluted by a significant amount. It contains many different types of cutting agents and buffers. It’s impossible to determine what’s in a sample without thorough testing.
Popular Coke Cutting Agents
Various types of additives are added to cocaine. Some are more addictive and harmful than others. Common cutting agents that are relatively harmless include:
- Laundry detergent
These cutting agents come in a white powder form that looks similar to street cocaine. They’re not too dangerous although small particulates can build up in arteries. Large quantities can cause blockages in the brain, liver or heart.
Some of these cutting agents may make users feel more anxious or paranoid. For example, caffeine is equally likely to raise blood pressure and heart rate. The combination of caffeine and coke can work together to cause feelings of intense anxiety.
Unfortunately, some cutting agents are much more dangerous than others. They can even cause fatal overdoses. Common dangerous cutting agents include:
- Boric acid
These agents can be very toxic. When mixed with coke, these drugs can cause a bad reaction in many users.
Benzocaine is a popular anaesthetic used by dentists. It can be found in various forms.
This cutting agent is commonly used because it has a similar numbing effect as blow. It also comes in the form of a white powder, so it is easy to mix with pure coke. A kilo of benzocaine is also extremely cheap. It can cost as little as $50 although that price is significantly higher on the black market.
Those who snort coke laced with benzocaine are at risk for developing some very serious health complications. In worst-case scenarios, it can lead to a life-threatening condition known as methemoglobinemia. This condition involves having abnormal levels of hemoglobin in the bloodstream. Less and less oxygen becomes available to various tissues until it causes the tissues to die.
Common symptoms of methemoglobinemia include changes to one’s skin color and blood color.
If hemoglobin levels rise above 15%, patients will experience cardiac and neurologic symptoms. If the levels rise above 70%, the condition becomes fatal.
When added to pure cocaine, boric acid heightens the anaesthetic effects of the drug. The acid also looks like cocaine crystals, so it’s easy to mix in with the cocaine. Many buyers are none the wiser. Considering the fact that this chemical is used to manufacture ant and rodent pesticides, it is highly toxic. In fact, many experts would label it as a dangerous poison.
Due to its toxic nature, ingestion of large quantities of boric acid can lead to death. Blow laced with boric acid often causes numerous neurological and physical conditions. It’s definitely one of the worst cutting agents to have in coke.
A recent rise in overdoses is due to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is not only stronger than heroin, but also 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
This synthetic opioid is often prescribed to treat advanced stages of cancer. Unfortunately, only a small quantity can cause a fatal overdose.
Fentanyl is relatively cheap when compared to the cost of pure coke. As a result, it’s often added to blow since it has similar properties. However, even just a few milligrams of fentanyl can have devastating effects. According to data collected by New York City, 44% of the 1,300 overdoses in 2016 involved fentanyl.
Fentanyl has the same side effects as opioids. It even kills in the same way by stopping a user’s respiratory system. Those overdosing from fentanyl will basically look like they’re drifting off to sleep. The only difference is that they’ll stop breathing once they’ve dozed off.
The good news is that naloxone is an antidote for synthetic opioids. If administered on time, naloxone can save lives.
Most physicians prescribe levamisole to kill parasitic worms. It was used to treat both humans and livestock in the past; however, this anthelmintic drug as found to cause arganulocytosis.
Arganulocytosis is a condition that wipes out all white blood cells in the body. White blood cells are soldiers the body uses to fight against bacteria and other germs. Without them, the body is highly susceptible to a wide range of illnesses and diseases. With this condition, patients can actually die from small scratches and minor infections.
The reason levamisole is used as a cutting agent is because it increases dopamine levels in the brain. This enhances the euphoric effects obtained from snorting the drug. It makes the cocaine feel stronger although it’s less pure.
More and more cocaine seized by the DEA contain levamisole. In 2011, 73% of seized narcotics tested positive for levamisole. By 2012, it was found in 90% of Danish cocaine. It’s still a popular cutting agent.
Lidocaine is a local anaesthetic that usually kicks in after 30 seconds and lasts for 20 minutes. Its numbing effects have made it an ideal buffing agent for coke. Unfortunately, cocaine and lidocaine work off of each other.
Lidocaine-laced blow can cause acute toxicity, and cause seizures and convulsions. Equal amounts of both drugs have a magnifying effect. Just 5mg/kg of cocaine and lidocaine can create a seizure that is identical to taking 20mg/kg of coke.
Coke laced with lidocaine can also trigger arrhythmia and cause confusion and drowsiness. Users may also experience blurred visions. Some of these symptoms are temporary; however, their intensity can worsen with time and cocaine abuse.
Mannitol is used to cut heroin and coke. It has anti-caking properties that keep the drugs in a powdered form. This makes it look as if the cocaine was not buffed at all, so it can fetch a higher price on the black market.
Mannitol is a dangerous substance as well. It can cause health complication to those who are allergic and to those with a history of heart disease failure.
Novocaine is similar to lidocaine. It has similar properties, and causes similar side effects. It’s often used as a cutting agent because it has a numbing effect that mimics cocaine. This makes it difficult for users to identify whether their drugs are laced or not when doing a taste test.
Cocaine laced with novocaine can cause heart problems and seizures. It can also cause confusion and drowsiness as well.
Phenacetin used to be a popular painkiller. It has since been removed from the market because it caused a number of negative effects and reactions. Most importantly, it’s been found to be carcinogenic.
The ingestion of phenacetin can result in the following serious side effects:
- Heart failure
- Loss of consciousness
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of the tongue
100% Pure Cocaine and Its Effects
It’s difficult to find pure cocaine on the streets. Those who succeed are likely paying double, if not triple, the regular price.
Higher purity cocaine is stronger, which also means that it is much more dangerous although that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The effects of the drugs are more pronounced when snorting or ingesting pure cocaine. Users are immediately hit with a rush of euphoric sensations. They feel energetic, powerful and alert. Due to the intensity of these feelings, most users are unlikely to need a second line soon.
As the night progresses and users snort more lines, they either feel amazing or terrible. For some users, the strength of pure cocaine can result in unsavory side effects, like anxiety.
Common Side Effects of Pure Cocaine
Users often experience side effects when snorting pure cocaine. They’re basically the same side effects as cut cocaine; however, the effects are more severe. Common symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased body pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Tactile hallucinations
Some users will have a terrible time the entire night until the effects wear off. These users have not yet developed enough tolerance to the pure drug. In these cases, chasing the desired high can also become quite dangerous, as it’s easy to overdose.
Long-term cocaine use can lead to the development of severe depression. Addicts may often experience suicidal thoughts. These thoughts can persist for months after users have become sober.
The Increased Danger of Pure Cocaine Use
The main difference between snorting pure cocaine and buffed products will be most noticeable the rest of the night. Since coke is a vasoconstrictor, pure coke can likely stop or damage an addict’s heart.
Pure cocaine is much more likely to cause overdoses and acute heart damage. Users who snort pure cocaine when they are used to buffed drugs can easily overdose. Their usual dosage becomes much more potent. Instead of doing three lines, their body may only be able to handle one.
The Comedown of Abusing Pure Cocaine
There’s both good news and bad news when it boils down to the comedown involved with snorting pure cocaine.
The bad news is that high-quality, pure cocaine generally causes a fairly bad comedown. It’s not uncommon to feel glum and depressed. The pure drugs significantly boost chemical and neurotransmitter levels within the brain. To recover from this artificial boost, users will feel an array of negative reactions. Most feel washed out, while others feel grumpy or paranoid. It’s to be expected.
The good news — or semi-good news — is that addicts won’t feel the extra side effects that come with cutting agents. They also won’t have to deal with the potential dangers involved with mixing several drugs together. For example, fentanyl-laced cocaine can be very deadly.
It’s Bad News Either Way
Regardless of whether an addict is snorting pure or cut cocaine, it’s bad news either way. The chemical effects of both can irreversibly damage the body, especially when it is used for long periods of time. Long-term addicts will face more intense withdrawals and suffer from more severe side effects.
Quitting is not as easy as it looks. Those who are addicted and looking to get sober should speak to one of our counselors immediately. Our counsellors can help assess various situations to determine what the best course of action may be.